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Sunday, March 15, 2009


What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each others folly - that is the first law of nature.
- Voltaire

About a week ago I read a journal entry by a young woman with very firm opinions which is usually something I admire. While I could admire this woman's strong views and obvious intellect, I couldn't even begin to agree with her viewpoint. She had blogged her opinion on whether people with low IQ's should even be allowed to be born. Her opinion was, in a long entry and very vehement terms, that "retards" should be culled from the gene pool as soon as we have the technology to know that they will not be "whole and a good addition to society". I remember that part verbatim because it stuck with me.

I have six children. Four of them have been blessed with above average intellect; it's too early to tell with my baby though he seems very alert and intelligent. The other, my fourteen year old son, has been blessed with other traits. He is mildly retarded with an IQ of about 70, mildly Autistic, has ADHD and is Bi-Polar and the doctor who sees him has said recently that my son has begun showing signs of Schizophrenia and Psychosis. I can see some of you there shaking your heads and feeling sorry for him (and me by extension) and saying "how can she say her son has been blessed?" While I wish with every fiber of my being that my son had been given the brains that my other children have and the possibilities that lie before them because of it, yes, I still say that Jordan has been blessed. As have I and so many others because of the birth of this boy who is not "whole and a good addition to society."

Jordans not perfect. He wears no Halo and he hasn't sprouted wings though I'm sure he'd love the havoc he could wreak with flying abilities. I am not going to paint a portrait of the sweet retarded child who makes every day Heaven by his very presence. My life probably would have been 1000 times easier had he NOT been born. He can be aggressive and physically violent. He can be sly and sneaky and has a talent for lying that a person of greater intellect and larger malice would envy. But had he not been born, I also would have missed out on some very valuable lessons. Jordan makes me think outside the box much of the time. To keep up with him, I have to.

People have asked me, with pity showing in their gazes, how I manage raising a child like Jordan. They say as they pat my arm how hard it must be to be the mother of a boy like that. I say to them what I have learned from watching Jordan I now know to be the truth. Yes, it is hard to raise him. It is a lifelong challenge that has worries that will probably follow me into the afterlife. But, I tell them, as hard as it is to RAISE Jordan, what must it be like to BE Jordan?

What must it feel like to be fourteen years old beginning to like girls and knowing that these girls look at you with disgust because even though you're good looking on the outside with a wonderful heart, you're different and fourteen isn't an age to be different? What must it be like to see your peers moving on socially and intellectually while you still struggle with second and third grade books? What must it be like to be so filled with hurt that sometimes it spills over into a physical rage? What must it be like to look at the teacher you adore, whom you have known since you were five and see the black eye she has now because you head butted her in a moment of uncontrollable anger? What must if be like to have people look at you like you are an alien when you are just a little boy who would willingly run naked through the front yard and give away every toy he owns just to hear someone say "I'm your friend, Jordan?" What must it be like to feel different, misplaced, alone in a crowd, disliked... retarded?

Yet for all of that, for all of his problems, for all of his incessant whining which sometimes leads me straight to the straw and bottle of Baileys, he has taught me so much.

Look at Jordan and say "dink" or "aboo" (his favorite "words") and he will give you a heart wrenching grin and say them back as he hugs you. Lesson- the little things can make you the happiest.

He can see road kill on the side of the road and not think "ewww". Nope, his reaction will be that that is so sad that that animal died and mommy shouldn't we stop and pick it up and bury it so it can go to God? Lesson- it may not be pretty but it's still Gods.

Let Jordan see a man with a "homeless, will work for food" sign and after it is explained to him why the man is there, he doesn't have the reaction so many of us "normal" people do. He doesn't say or think that the man is probably a druggie who deserves it or that maybe we should give him a dollar or two so we can feel good about our compassion. No, he gets right to the heart of it and says that the world needs to change so that people don't have to have signs like that and isn't it sad that that man has to do that because it must make him feel really bad when people laugh at him. Lesson- awww heck, if you can't see that one, I'm not even going to try to put into words what the lesson there is.

All in all, yep, things would be easier if Jordan hadn't been born. I would be able to get and keep a job because I wouldn't have to be going to his school a few days a week to calm him down which makes it impossible to work a normal schedule. I wouldn't be worrying constantly about what will happen to him when I die. I could sleep peacefully at night not jumping at the slightest sound worrying that it is Jordan going to pour yogurt over the cats just because.

I also might look at that homeless man and see just a bum. I would probably see road kill and never would it occur to me to be sad because one of Gods creatures had been killed. Good chance that in my nice white bread life, as liberal as I am and as tolerant as I am, I wouldn't be nearly as accepting of others faults and flaws as I am now. From him, I have learned tolerance of the most basic kind; tolerance not of that annoying person who cuts you off in traffic or your crazy sister in law who can't stop talking about her favorite soap opera but tolerance of the frailty of humanity; tolerance of the flaws that we all have, "normal" or not.

So yeah, people with low IQ's should be allowed to be born. Not because they are so angelic and so gosh darn wonderful but just because they have as many things to teach us as that History Professor you like so much or that Parish Priest whose words you quote to all. It's just a matter of whether or not you're willing to learn things from someone who may a slightly different way of teaching and whose favorite way may be with a hug and the word "dink". Personally, I like it.

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